Vicks VapoRub: Smell Good while Avoiding Antibiotics

It seems like several of my friends and acquaintances have some sort of viral illness, either gastrointestinal or respiratory in nature. 

Currently, we are in the midst of influenza season with reports that H1N1 is again causing severe disease--some of which I have seen myself in the ICU.

Along with influenza, other respiratory viruses such as RSV are circulating and capable of causing mild or even severe illness. While there are antivirals available for influenza, there isn't much to do for the other viruses.

Today, I was asked by one of my friends what he should do for chest congestion.

I said "How, about a Z-Pak?"

Just kidding.

What I recommend is a combination of a few things:

  • Ibuprofen or naproxen for fever, aches, pains, and headache
  • DayQuil (or the generic version of it) for symptomatic relief of congestion, cough, etc.
  • Vicks VapoRub

My friend employed Vicks VapoRub and seemed to immediately report improved symptoms. While anecdotal evidence is not trivial more robust data on the efficacy of Vicks VapoRub in improving sleep of sick children and their caregivers and symptoms (albeit in children) exists. 

My friend wanted to know how Vicks VapoRub work and I didn't really have a good answer so I did a little checking. 

The ingredients include menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil and the mechanism of action seems to stem from the ability of menthol to stimulate the TRPM8 channel resulting in improvements in respiration.

So, instead of reaching for antibiotics try VapoRub--you'll feel better and you'll smell better (that's not even considering antibiotic-associated diarrhea).

If VapoRub became the fragrance of the season, we would all be better off.